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Luc Montagnier and the Nobel Disease

Few awards in anything have the cachet and respect the Nobel Prizes in various disciplines possess. In my specialty, medicine, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is quite properly viewed as the height of achievement. In terms of prestige, particularly in the world of science, the Nobel Prize is without peer. To win the Nobel Prize in Medicine or another scientific field, a scientist must have made a discovery considered fundamentally important to the point that it changes the way we think about one aspect of science or medicine. Winning the Nobel Prize in a scientific field instantly elevates a scientist from whatever he or she was before to the upper echelons of world science.

So how, one might ask, is it that seemingly so frequently Nobel Laureates embrace crankery or pseudoscience in their later years? They call it the Nobel Disease, and, indeed, it’s a term listed in the Skeptics’ Dictionary (where the term is attributed to me based on this post about Linus Pauling from four years ago, but I can’t claim credit for coining the term; it existed before I wrote that post) and Rational Wiki, complete with examples. What inspired me to take on this topic, dusting off some old knowledge and writings, is that we apparently have a new victim of the Nobel Disease. Well, perhaps “new” is not the right word, but he is the most recent example. I’m referring to Luc Montagnier, who with Françoise Barré-Sinoussi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for the discovery of HIV in 2008.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take Montagnier very long to devolve into crankery. Until 2009, to be precise. Since then, Montagnier has embraced concepts like DNA teleportation and ideas very much like homeopathy. And then, just last month, his journey to the dark side was complete. Yes, Luc Montagnier presented at the yearly quackfest I discussed last week, the one in which there was much enthusiasm among the attendees for a treatment that involves administering bleach enemas to autistic children. He presented at Autism One, a coup that caused much rejoicing in the antivaccine movement.

The Nobel Disease and me

Given my interest in skepticism, science-based medicine, and pseudoscience, it’s always interested me how scientists and doctors become cranks. Even more interesting is how people who have achieved the pinnacle of scientific glory, people whom one would reasonable expect to be about as immune to pseudoscience and crankery as anyone on this planet, manage to fail so spectacularly into quackery. Of course, Linus Pauling is the prototypical example, which is why I’ve written about him before multiple times, both here on SBM and elsewhere. A brilliant chemist who won two Nobel Prizes, one for chemistry and the Nobel Peace Prize, in his later years Pauling became convinced that high dose vitamin C was a highly effective treatment for cancer and the common cold and, expanding upon that, came to believe in the quackery that is orthomolecular medicine. As a result, Pauling’s reputation was tainted for all time, and he became known more for his crankery than his successes. Since his death, Pauling’s successors have continued to chase his dream with no real success because even massive doses of vitamin C have little or no effect on cancer and may even interfere with some chemotherapy regimens. I haven’t checked up on the latest research on vitamin C and cancer (perhaps that would be a subject for another post), but I have no doubt that Pauling’s acolytes are still out there, still trying to prove that giving multi-gram quantities of ascorbate can cure cancer.

Unfortunately, Pauling is not alone in becoming a crank. Linus Pauling might have been my first experience with the Nobel Disease, but it was not a personal experience. A few years ago, I actually got to confront the Nobel Disease, up close and personal so to speak, at a surgical meeting. The keynote speaker was Louis J. Ignarro, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1998 along with Robert F. Furchgott and Ferid Murad for their discovery that nitric oxide is a signaling molecule (a discovery, which, by the way, is far more important than just its role in providing a mechanism of action for Viagra and all those other related drugs now used to treat erectile dysfunction, as one of our regular commenters will happily tell you).

Unfortunately, Ignarro didn’t even wait until his later years to descend into the swamp of dubious science. In 2006, I saw Ignarro give an ostensibly scientific talk at the Academic Surgical Congress in San Diego, a talk whose second half was dominated by a discussion of arginine supplementation as a heart disease cure-all. Ignarro started by weaving a fascinating story of the experiments, reasoning, and evidence that led to the discovery of nitric oxide and its importance as a signaling molecule. He is a captivating speaker, and I was enjoying the talk immensely. As his talk progressed, I thought he was a great speaker for the American Association for Academic Surgery, one of the two surgical societies sponsoring the Academic Surgical Congress. (The Society of University Surgeons is the other). The AAS is an organization dedicated to encouraging academic and research careers in young surgeons. Indeed, one can only be an active voting member for 10 years after taking one’s first faculty position or until age 45, whichever is longer. After that, AAS members are required to superannuate (become “emeritus” non-voting members). Consequently, at the yearly conferences, one of the goals is to invite scientists of some renown to talk good science and fire up the troops, and usually one of these is a basic scientist rather than a surgeon. Dr. Ignarro seemed to be doing an admirable job.

And then there was a change.

With about 10 or 15 minutes to go in his talk, he changed gears abruptly, and it was like the grinding of metal on metal — to me at least. I saw a few looks of puzzlement among the young surgeons sitting around me, but for the most part everyone took this change without any evidence that it bothered them.

What happened is that Dr. Ignarro started delving into what sounded to me like woo about diet and heart disease, discussing evidence that he had developed that arginine supplementation increases nitric oxide levels and protects against heart disease. It was somewhat interesting, and he might have been on to something. However, he was clearly vastly overselling it, indeed outright advocating that everyone should be taking arginine supplementation because it would greatly reduce the risk of developing heart disease through its generation of nitric oxide. I might not have thought about it much again, but then he did something that I’ve never seen a scientific speaker do before at an invited scientific talk at a conference. He started discussing (hawking, actually) a diet book he had written called No More Heart Disease: How Nitric Oxide Can Prevent — Even Reverse — Heart Disease And Stroke. In a single — if you’ll excuse the term — stroke during the last 15 or 20 minutes of his talk, Ignarro turned what should have been an inspiring talk given to a bunch of young surgeon-scientists to fire them up to want to be great researchers and push the boundaries of surgical science into little more than an infomercial for his book and a forum to pontificate about his dubious ideas regarding nutrition. Even if his work on arginine ever panned out (which to my knowledge it has not yet in the 6 years since the meeting), when he gave his talk it was clearly not ready for prime-time, and it’s not as though various alternative medicine practitioners hadn’t been pushing arginine supplementation and various other nutritional “treatments” for a long time already. Ignarro gave them a seemingly scientific basis for these claims. He might turn out to be right, but even if he is, he had no business making the claims that he did based on the evidence that he had.

I was greatly disturbed and quite disappointed, as I sensed another Linus Pauling in the making. This concern was further amplified when I later heard about his inventing and promoting a dubious dietary supplement with HerbaLife and publishing a PNAS article touting arginine supplementation in which he failed to disclose his financial interest with HerbaLife. At the time, I was worried at the effect his talk might have on a bunch of idealistic young surgeons who are desperately trying to do good science, even in the face of having to maintain a clinical practice in surgery. Worse, as I found later when discussing the talk with colleagues, many of them didn’t recognize the dubiousness of the last part of the talk. They were a bit taken aback by his peddling of his book, but seemed willing to accept the whole package, including the last part of the talk. The Nobel Prize halo is strong indeed. I still remember how betrayed I felt as his talk progressed and wondered if the meeting organizers felt a similar sense of betrayal or whether they were too in awe of the Nobel aura to notice.

I couldn’t help but compare Ignarro to Nikolaas Tinbergen, whose adoption of the “refrigerator mother” hypothesis as the cause of autism in his actual Nobel lecture led Prometheus to quip that Tinbergen’s Nobel acceptance speech represented a “nearly unbeatable record for shortest time between receiving the Nobel Prize and saying something really stupid about a field in which the recipient had little experience.” Unfortunately, these days, Ignarro has teamed up with a naturopath named Andrew Myers to promote his practice. Myers, it turns out, is the President and Chief Science officer of NutraGenetics, a company Ignarro founded to sell his arginine supplements. Ignarro is even blogging on Myers’ blog and promoting a book they wrote together, Health Is Wealth: Performance Nutrition, complete with Myers on the cover, lab coat, stethoscope, and all, trying to look like a real doctor. From my perspective, if you’re a Nobel laureate whose scientific acumen has fallen to the point where you think it’s a good idea to appoint a naturopath as the chief science officer of your company, the Nobel committee should consider revoking your prize. In my opinion, of course.

It took Ignarro only a few years to go from Nobel Laureate to borderline, if not outright, crank. Sadly, took Montagnier only a year, if even that.

The Nobel Disease strikes Luc Montagnier

Luc Montagnier shared the Nobel Prize in 2008 for his discovery of the human immunodeficiency with Harald zur Hausen, who discovered the link between the human papilloma virus and cervical cancer, an event that Steve Novella took note of when Montagnier received the award. Then, earlier this summer, Montagnier appeared to endorse homeopathy:

French virologist Luc Montagnier stunned his colleagues at a prestigious international conference when he presented a new method for detecting viral infections that bore close parallels to the basic tenets of homeopathy.

Although fellow Nobel prize winners — who view homeopathy as quackery — were left openly shaking their heads, Montagnier’s comments were rapidly embraced by homeopaths eager for greater credibility.

Montagnier told the conference last week that solutions containing the DNA of pathogenic bacteria and viruses, including HIV, “could emit low frequency radio waves” that induced surrounding water molecules to become arranged into “nanostructures”. These water molecules, he said, could also emit radio waves

He suggested water could retain such properties even after the original solutions were massively diluted, to the point where the original DNA had effectively vanished. In this way, he suggested, water could retain the “memory” of substances with which it had been in contact — and doctors could use the emissions to detect disease.

Our very own Harriet Hall commented on one of Montagnier’s studies that was embraced by homeopaths as “proof” that homeopathy “works.” Montagnier may not beat Tinbergen’s record for shortest time to descend into pseudoscience after winning the Nobel Prize, but he’s definitely in contention. As if drifting into concepts that resemble those of homeopathy weren’t enough, Montagnier has also made a name for himself, such as it is, by appearing in the HIV/AIDS denialist film House of Numbers stating that HIV can be cleared naturally through nutrition and supplements:

Meanwhile, Montagnier patented a device to detect these fantastical radiowaves allegedly emitted by bacterial and viral DNA in water. This he did after publishing a paper in a journal that for which himself is the editor after a mere three days between submission and acceptance, which prompted Le Canard Noir to nominate him for an Ignobel Prize. So, as of around 2010, Luc Montagnier had already racked up an impressive list of crankery in a very short time after winning his Nobel Prize.

He wasn’t done, however.

Montagnier, autism quackery, and the antivaccine movement

Upon learning that Montagnier was going to present at Autism One, I decided that I would try to find his talk and then blog about it, given that AO usually posts video of all the talks. After all, I had no trouble last week finding the video for Kerri Rivera’s talk at AO about using bleach enemas to cure autism, and Mark and David Geier’s talk is posted. Now, a week later, links to saved streams of pretty much every talk appears to be posted at the Autism One website. Even Jenny McCarthy’s keynote speech is there.

Unfortunately, thus far I have not been able to find the video for Montagnier’s keynote talk. However, take a look at the description of his talk, entitled, The Microbial Track (an extended version of the abstract is here):

Our group of researchers and physicians from European countries, Chronimed, is studying chronic diseases. Our recent observations may lead to new approaches of treatment and prevention. These observations are of two types: biological and clinical. There is in the blood of most autistic children — but not in healthy children — DNA sequences that emit, in certain conditions, electromagnetic waves. The analysis by molecular biology techniques allows us to identify these electromagnetic waves as coming from already known bacterial species. This correlation, which is based on more than one hundred children of European origin, naturally does not prove a causal relationship. However, a therapy first started by a group of independent clinicians and now performed in conjunction with laboratory observations reinforces the idea that systemic bacterial infections play a role in the genesis of symptoms of autism.

Our GPs have observed that a long-term therapy consisting of successive antibiotic treatments with accompanying medications induced in 60% of cases a significant improvement — sometimes even a complete resolution of symptoms. These children can now lead a normal school and family life. In conjunction with these treatments resulting in amelioration of symptoms is the disappearance of electromagnetic signals associated with the plasma bacterial DNA.

Our working hypothesis is that immune dysfunction associated with inflammation of the intestinal mucosa leads to the introduction of bacterial components, including neurotoxins, into the bloodstream, creating oxidative stress as well as microvascularities, especially affecting meningeal vessels and finally specific neuronal damage.

Of course, much research is still needed to strengthen this hypothesis, but our goal here is to have the medical community and the parents be aware of these opportunities for immediate treatment that can improve or cure more than half of autistic children. It is expected that, in the future, similar approaches will be applied to other serious chronic conditions of children and adults, including rheumatological disorders.

Montagnier also posted this on his website. Elsewhere, on the Chronimed website, it is claimed that 70% of children improve “dramatically” and that the other 30% improve more slowly.

So let me get this straight: Montagnier is now claiming that there exist in the blood of autistic children DNA sequences that emit radio waves that come from bacteria? Based on this, he is treating autistic children with long term antibiotics? Really?

I also note that he also claims that the same sequences are found in the blood of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, various neuropathies, chronic Lyme syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis. Never mind that the results of Montagnier’s experiments suggesting that DNA emits radio waves are far more likely to be due to contaminants in his PCR reactions than they are to be due to anything else. In any case, since I can’t evaluate the talk itself (perhaps I will once the video finally surfaces, as I have no doubt that it will), I will go back in time to when the clinical trial Montagnier proposed was first hitting the news. I first learned about it from Gimpy and Anthony Cox. Unfortunately, the pseudoscience that Montagnier appears to have embraced with respect to autism was combined with a highly unethical study in a manner that would put Andrew Wakefield to shame.

The trial was sponsored by the Autism Treatment Trust (ATT) and the Autism Research Institute (ARI), both institutions that are — shall we say? — not exactly known for their scientific rigor. Montagnier teamed up with a Dr. Corinne Skorupka, who is a DAN! practitioner from France, and a Dr. Lorene Amet, who is described as a neuroscientist but is a PhD and not an MD (i.e., not a clinician). The study that, together, the Nobel Prize winner and quacks propose is described thusly:

We are finally in a position to run some very exciting investigations/interventions with the support of Professor Montagnier, Nobel Prize winner for Medicine (for the discovery of HIV) and Dr. C. Skorupka a DAN! practitioner from Paris and long time friend. The project proposes to look at potential bacterial and viral chronic infections in autism. Prof Montagnier is of the view that some abnormalities in autism as well as in a whole range of neurological conditions, such as chronic fatigue and multiple sclerosis may be caused by potential infective agents. These would be difficult to the immune system to track down and would affect cell function thereby contributing to the development of the pathologies. He has developed a new technique that detects, by resonance, the genetic material of these potential infective agents. Additionally, using a very sensitive PCR assay, he can screen for a range of gram positive and gram negative bacteria as well as mycoplasma and Borrelia (Lyme disease). He can also look at viruses (PCR assays under development). We are not alone in believing that this approach can help develop our understanding of the causes of autism and enable it to be treated more effectively. The proposed treatment combines a succession of antibiotics with basic biomedical supplements and probiotics. These antibiotics block cell division rather than kill bacteria, thereby avoiding potential side effects. Unfortunately, at the moment, there is no funding available to cover the costs of this project, but we are hoping to use the data collected to help us obtain funding for future research.

One reason I’m quoting liberally and am not directly linking to the web pages for these quotes is because the original links are dead, and they do not appear to exist in the Wayback Machine. It rather makes you wonder, doesn’t it? You’ll see why I say this in a minute. In the meantime, before I discuss the “study” itself, let me just say one thing here. Whenever you see an “investigator” charge patients to undergo an experimental protocol, be very, very afraid. In general, with very few exceptions, reputable medical researchers do not ask patients to pay to undergo experimental protocols; their studies are funded with grants from the government, private foundations, or pharmaceutical companies. Yet here we have Montagnier and colleagues charging the parents of autistic children (also summarized here):

We offer your child the opportunity to be part of this project and to access to the Montagnier Infection Screen protocol. There will be medical follow up from Dr. Skorupka. The details of the project are outlined below. The total cost per child is likely to be around £1800, spread over a six-month period (details below). The antibiotic treatment is not included and may cost some £30- £60 a month, depending of the particular antibiotic selected. Every two months each child’s progress will be reviewed by Dr. Skorupka and Dr. Amet at ATT with interim progress reviews carried out by phone.

It would appear to be the results of this “clinical trial” that Montagnier reported at Autism One. Because the original sources describing the trial appear to have been thrown down the memory hole, I rely on people like Anthony Cox to show just how badly designed this experimental protocol is. Here are its specific aims:

  • Investigate the possibility that some cases of autism are associated with a range of bacterial infections, based on laboratory testing and clinical examination conducted by Dr. C. Skorupka in Edinburgh.
  • Assess the ASD children for the presence of nanobacteria following Prof Luc Montagnier’s protocol of investigations. The protocol would require a blood draw conducted at the clinic with the help of our nurse. The blood normally has to be centrifuged immediately and the supernatant extracted, then frozen to -80C and shipped on carboice to France.
  • Evaluate the efficacy of antibiotic intervention as well as behavioural evaluations (ATEC and ADOS). This would involve meeting with Dr Skopurpka and Dr. Amet every 2 months and reviewing progress over the phone in the interim month.
  • Report outcomes.

How is this study unethical? Let me count the ways. First, as I mentioned, it charges the patient for an experimental protocol. More importantly, it tests a hypothesis that is highly implausible from a biological standpoint. That bacterial or viral infection might cause or contribute to autism does not reach homeopathy-level implausibility, but it also doesn’t reach the level of plausibility where it can be considered ethical to subject human subjects to a prolonged regimen of antibiotic treatment based on it. One reason is that there are no convincing preclinical data to support the idea that bacterial or viral infections either cause or contribute to autism. Quite the opposite, in fact. Of course, where scientists note that there is no relationship between specific infections and autism, no doubt Montagnier would claim that any old bacterial infection will do. After all, his magic device, at least according to him, detects any bacterial or viral DNA, even after it’s been diluted to nonexistence and the water filtered so that no DNA could be left behind.

But it gets even worse than that.

Based on an unsupported hypothesis that bacterial infections cause autism, Montagnier has subjected autistic children to blood draws and prolonged treatment with antibiotics. The former cause unnecessary pain and suffering, and the latter has the potential to cause well-known complications. These include antibiotic-induced diarrhea and even C. difficile colitis, as well as a variety of other problems that can be caused when a child’s normal bacterial flora are killed off with antibiotics. Even if children avoid that problem, there is the issue of selecting for resistant bacteria, leaving the child’s bacterial flora altered to contain a higher proportion of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Since there is no reason to suspect that these children have any sort of clinical infection that needs treatment, giving them antibiotics for several months is all risk, no potential benefit. It’s completely unethical.

But it gets even worse than that.

The study proposed was poorly designed even for a pilot study. There was no control group, for one thing. Unless Montagnier radically changed the protocol, the children got the regimen, and the parents paid the practitioners to administer it. Moreover, because the selection criteria for the study were not specified, there is no way of knowing how much selection bias might have been operative, given that Montagnier now apparently claims that 60% of his subjects improved almost completely on long term antibiotics. Apparently he has also greatly expanded his study, which was originally supposed to be of only 12 subjects. However, now he reports that he’s helped over 200 children. I’d really love to see the evidence he uses to support that claim. Hopefully the video will show up at Autism One soon.

While I’m waiting, though, I want to know how quacks like this can get away with doing such unethical clinical trials. In the U.S., we have Mark and David Geier, who created an Institutional Review Board at their own “research institute” with cronies. The likely reason they could get away with it was because their research wasn’t federally funded, nor did their “research institute” receive federal funds. Thus they could skirt the Common Rule, which applies only to research being carried out at institutions receiving federal funds or research being used to support an application for FDA approval, although many states require any human subjects research carried within their borders to adhere to the Common Rule regardless of funding source. I’m not sufficiently familiar with the U.K. to know exactly how its ethical oversight of human subjects research works, but fortunately Gimpy was there to explain. Given that Montagnier’s trial used medicinal compounds (antibiotics), it clearly required oversight from an ethics board. Did it get it? What ethics board oversaw this trial? In the UK, clinical trials are regulated by the Medicines and Health Care products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which enforces regulations that dictate that clinical trials of medicinal products in human subjects requires authorization by the MHRA and authorization by an ethics committee much like IRBs in the United States. Not only is there no indication that this trial has obtained the necessary approvals from the MHRA and an applicable ethics committee. In other words, it’s bad science and bad ethics, all rolled into one.

The Nobel Disease redux

I’ve wondered how some Nobel Laureates, after having achieved so much, proving themselves at the highest levels by making fundamental contributions to our understanding of science that they rate the highest honors, somehow end up embracing dubious science (Ignarro) or even outright pseudoscience (Pauling or Montagnier). Does the fame go to their head? Do they come to think themselves so much more creative than other scientists that their fantastical ideas become plausible to them? Does winning the Nobel Prize lead some scientists to think that the genius they showed in their own area of expertise that allowed them to win such an exalted prize also applies to other areas of science outside their area of expertise? Who knows? What I do know is that Montagnier has become the latest Nobel Laureate to become a crank. He even has the requisite persecution complex, as demonstrated in this post on his own blog from April entitled To autistic children, in which he complains about criticism and then, in essence, says, “They thought me mad — mad, I tell you! — but I’ll show them!” (Well, actually, he laments how the “country of Claude Bernard and Louis Pasteur” has become the “land of Diafoirus in an intellectual dictatorship that sterilizes any medical advance that upsets the establishment.” Then comes the prediction:

This work was not born today. It follows from patient observations made over the years by doctors, who dared not to follow mainstream antibiotic use. The very rapid progress resulting from careful use of antibiotics in these autistic children exceeded the expectations of both the doctors and the parents, attested by numerous videos and testimonials.

Of course this approach does not always work. We must confirm this breakthrough by controlled double blind clinical trials, but within the rules of medical ethics.

I support this approach even more as it coincides with another breakthrough, the science that I am developing, supported by an international network of physicists and biologists : detection with biophysical methods of latent infections by viruses and bacteria. These very infections are identified in autistic children, and also in neurodegenerative diseases, joint diseases, and certain cancers. Early detection will allow new approaches to prevention of these diseases so very prevalent in our population.

I really do need to see Montagnier’s Autism One video.

Through his work in isolating and identifying the human immunodeficiency virus, Luc Montagnier contributed to a major advance in science that ultimately led to effective treatments for AIDS and chronic HIV infection. He deserved his Nobel Prize. That’s why it makes me very sad to see him fall so far so fast. Presenting at Autism One is almost the bottom of the barrel as far as science goes. After palling around and sharing the podium with the likes of Andrew Wakefield, Mark and David Geier, Kerri Rivera, Mark Blaxill, Dan Olmsted, and the like, the only way Montagnier could fall lower would be if he were to take up a writing gig on NaturalNews.com.

I really hope I don’t see that next year, but, sadly, it wouldn’t surprise me if I did.

Posted in: Cancer, Neuroscience/Mental Health, Science and the Media, Vaccines

Leave a Comment (48) ↓

48 thoughts on “Luc Montagnier and the Nobel Disease

  1. Guy Chapman says:

    Surely you must realise that long term antibiotics are a miracle treatment? Only with long term antibiotics can you cure such scourges as chronic Lyme disease and Morgellons! No matter that these are not acknowledged by medical science, they are just suppressing them because of teh evil big pharmaz. But you can cure them with antibiotics, which of course are made by teh good little pharmaz not teh evil big pharmaz.

    Or something.

    OK, I admit it, trying to follow these cranks’ lines of reasoning will end up with your BRANES falling out of your ears.

  2. David Gorski says:

    Yes, I always wondered about how such strong proponents of all “natural” cures could be so enthusiastic about long-term antibiotics, as for Lyme disease or in this case autism. After all, antibiotics are pharmaceutical drugs and they kill off normal flora; they produce well-known complications. I guess all “natural” is great except when it isn’t. Oh, well, no one ever accused these people of consistency, scientific or ideological.

  3. BillyJoe says:

    “as one of our regular commenters will happily tell you”

    Daedalus is now famous!
    I wonder how long it will take him to slip into crankery with that NO shit of his. :D

  4. BillyJoe says:

    Apparently my comment is awaiting moderation. Maybe if I rewrite it with a small alteration…

  5. BillyJoe says:

    David Gorski: “as one of our regular commenters will happily tell you”

    Daedalus is now famous!
    I wonder how long it will take him to slip into crankery with that NO nonsense of his. :D

  6. I’m convinced! Every child with autism gets life long Bactrim now!

  7. I would say that the authority bias is more common than we expect to find even on the top university and research facilities. People really tend to be lazy to think in the evidence, beleving is easier to cope in general. The most astonishing fact is that this atitude make pseudoscience to spread, such as Gerson therapy and all the crap sold by those that know that people won’t understand their evidence

    For instance, one time my Dad told me that the government healthy agency wouldn’t allow to sell homeopathy and all other bullshit treatment if wasnt proved to be work. I virtually spent 1 hour to explain that its not the case, that politics is far from perfect and some treatments are legally sold due to its “no harm effect” not because the benefit that it is supposed to provided

    Luc could have done a great work on virus, both on HIV and HPV, but failed to make good science on other field. How on earth a clinical trial without good controls and pre-clinical evidence could be approved ? Patients paying for a uncertain benefit and a potencial harm treatment is disturbing on the century of science

    As the great Feyman told on the wonderful video (and book): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dkv0KCR3Yiw

    I know anything about nobel price, what worth what
    Nobel price is a pain in the neck
    The price is the pleasure to find things out, those are the real things

  8. PJLandis says:

    “Common Rule, which applies only to federally-funded research or research being used to support an application for FDA approval”

    I’m pretty sure the Common Rule, and it’s attendant ethical regulations, apply to any research at an institution receiving federal funds. Not that it affects the point made, but since most major research institutions have some federal funding even the privately funded studies are technically subject to federal research ethics rules. Enforcement is another issue.

  9. PJLandis says:

    I’m surprised there wasn’t any mention of Kary Mullis, Nobel for working on PCR, and denies that HIV causes AIDs.

  10. DugganSC says:

    There’s a part of me that wants to say that one needs to be at least a little unhinged to make great discoveries, the ability to think past what common knowledge says works or doesn’t to find something new, but I suspect that that’s observer bias and jealousy. I want these brilliant people to be just a bit crazy because it makes me feel a bit better about myself. To borrow a line from “I’d Rather Have a Bottle in Front of Me”, “I might be drunk, but at least I’m not insane”.

    I wonder if there isn’t also an element of depression over having reached the pinnacle of one’s life. I mean, getting a Nobel prize means you discovered something significant. After that… how do you go back to the lab with minor advances? I’d imagine most of these people fervently want to once again reach the heights that they did before, so they’re more likely to fall for false philosophies in their desire to find another Great Truth.

    But, again, I may be projecting upon them to make myself feel better by bringing them down.

  11. mousethatroared says:

    Nobel disease – I like that. I just started reading What Intelligence Test Miss by Keith Stanovich. It was mentioned in a Brain Science Podcast interview of Scott Lillienfield on myths in psychology.

    Stanovich’s premise is that while IQ tests do measure intelligence, they don’t measure some important critical thinking skills that he calls rationality. He also suggests that these rationality skills don’t nessasarily positively correlate with the intelligence skills that are measured in a IQ test. (People can score high on an intelligence test but demonstrated weakness in rationality)

    The funny thing is that it seems pretty well established that a high IQ often predicts success, particularily in scientific or technical fields, but if Stanovich’s premise is correct, that success does not nessasarily suggest good critical thinking skills.

    I’m speculating based on Stanovich’s basic premise. Since we don’t have a test for rationality, we don’t know if rationality correlate with success. For all we know, rationality negatively correlates with success in scientific or technical fields.

    That would be pretty surprising, but reading this article…I wonder.

  12. David Gorski says:

    I’m surprised there wasn’t any mention of Kary Mullis, Nobel for working on PCR, and denies that HIV causes AIDs.

    Space considerations. I mean, there’s also James Watson and William Shockley…

  13. Steve D. says:

    This article makes me wonder to what degree the existence of a ‘Nobel disease’ is the result of a confirmation bias among skeptics. It is disappointing to see a respectable scientist turn to such nonsense, but it seems only to confirm what is already known about intelligent individuals’ ability to compartmentalize belief systems.

    In fact, I would wager that Nobel winners compartmentalize their beliefs much less often than do most scientists. It only appears that there is ‘Nobel disease’ because it is so embarrassingly obvious and painful when the rare Nobel winner goes off the deep end. The existence of a ‘Nobel disease’ is also likely due to a reasonable tendency to hold Nobel winners to a higher standard than normal scientists.

    In order to determine if a ‘Nobel disease’ exists, one would need to compare the percentage of Nobel winners who embrace a form of pseudo-science to the percentage of scientists in general who embrace a form of pseudo-science. It is quite idealistic to imagine that Nobel winners are immune to basic flaws in human reasoning. If nothing else, these scientists serve to remind us of our fallibility.

  14. Dr. Gorski,

    With all the respect in the world, I was curious what ever came about from the cancer article you posted a while back. I do not remember the details, but something to the effect of a guy using radio waves to cure cancer, with a spoon transceiver or something in the mouth. I know you were “healthily skeptical”, but at the same time considered it. Did anything ever come of that? Were the flaws found?

  15. PJLandis says:

    Perhaps Nobel winners aren’t any more likely to hold irrational beliefs, but I think it’s a fair assumption that support from a Nobel winner gives bad ideas undeserved credibilty.

  16. Science Mom says:

    Great. What we need is more antibiotic abuse and more experimentation on special needs children. It would be amusing to observe the outright hypocrisy of the biomeddlers by glomming onto anyone who supports their biases and has a few letters after their name and abusing pharmaceuticals for all of the imaginary maladies they diagnose their children with if children weren’t suffering.

  17. David Gorski says:

    Perhaps Nobel winners aren’t any more likely to hold irrational beliefs, but I think it’s a fair assumption that support from a Nobel winner gives bad ideas undeserved credibility.

    Indeed. If one looks at the list of Nobel laureates in medicine and various sciences, the number who have turned into cranks is probably only on the order of 1% or 2%, if even that. Whether that’s higher or lower than scientists in general, who knows? That’d be a tough study to do. What is clear is that Nobel laureates who turn into cranks have far more influence than any regular scientist who turns into a crank.

  18. LMA says:

    I think the reason there is so much profound quackery regarding autism can be summed up quite simply: the real causes are things people don’t want to hear. Because what *do* we know as fact about autism? The parents carry defective genes. The parents are old. The parents are fat. The parents have already had autistic children but roll the dice with another potential child’s life and get pregnant again. In other words, the parents shouldn’t have become parents. And that’s not something people want to hear or contemplate honestly. So they procreate, produce children with profound and incurable illnesses and are then willing to listen to any crazy theory that doesn’t place the biological blame on themselves. There’s already so much cognitive dissonance going on in their heads that buying into pseudo-science isn’t any kind of compromise at all.

  19. mousethatroared says:

    @LMA, Just curious. Where can I get that test that shows whether or not I have the defective gene that causes autism?

  20. Epinephrine says:

    @SkepticalHealth

    With all the respect in the world, I was curious what ever came about from the cancer article you posted a while back. I do not remember the details, but something to the effect of a guy using radio waves to cure cancer, with a spoon transceiver or something in the mouth. I know you were “healthily skeptical”, but at the same time considered it. Did anything ever come of that? Were the flaws found?

    Oh, I remember that – it turns out it wasn’t as long ago as I thought:
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/reassessing-whether-low-energy-electromagnetic-fields/comment-page-1/

    I am genuinely curious about it, too. It was a fascinating mix of completely implausible stuff (specific frequencies based on radial pulse) and interesting evidence (blinded controls, in vitro work).

  21. majkinetor says:

    Pauling’s reputation was tainted for all time, and he became known more for his crankery than his successes

    Ha ha ha ha….
    ~Brilliant

    Dr. David Gorski – the diseased-Nobel-prizewinner hunter.

  22. windriven says:

    “There is a fine line between genius and insanity.” – Oscar Levant

    @Billy Joe – He’s wandered awfully close to the crankery line already.

  23. Drs. Gorski, Hall, Crislip, etc,

    Something I’ve been thinking about. I’m a little scatter-brained right now, so I can’t tell if this is something that we commonly see and bitch about, or if it’s something not often discussed. I would call it “planned publishing.” That is, a researcher doing a study that they know is relatively useless, with results that are more or less common sense, and then using the findings of that study, via press-releases, etc, to support or promote a cause.

    My example: we’ve all read the observational study from San Antonio that showed artificial sweeteners were associated with weight gain. The study relied on memory, was observational, did not account for calories, or anything of the sort. It was completely ridiculous. The authors even wrote in the study that they cannot say that artificial sweeteners, and that the findings were likely due to people being on an already unhealthy trajectory (ie, the person who drives through McDonalds, orders his meal super-sized, and then gets a Diet Coke and thinks they are going to lose weight.) Etc. But the results of the study are used by all the “natural” websites to say “DIET COKE MAKES YOU FAT!”

    I emailed the lead author, Sharon Fowler, and asked her how she felt about her study being misquoted by almost every “natural” website out there. I expected a scientific minded reply. What I got in return were the rantings and ravings of what sounded like a complete lunatic. She told me how she believed that aspartame was responsible for seizures, anaphylactic reactions, disease, and everything in-between. To be completely frank she sounded just like some of the wackier people who post here (@rustichealth, etc.)

    So I have to ask myself, do I believe that this author innocently performed a completely useless study on a substance that she believes is dangerous? Or is it more likely that she wanted to try to show that it is responsible for at least something bad, with the idea that it’d be easy to get her name and worthless study promoted by scientifically-disinclined readers?

    Another example would be that massage study, where the person exercised on a stationary bike and then they biopsied the leg muscles and ran it through a chip or whatever. They were just looking for something, and then wanted to publish it to promote massage therapy.

    Do we have a name for this type of research?

  24. cervantes says:

    Do we have a name for this type of research?

    Bo-o-o-o-o-o-g-u-u-u-s-s-s!

  25. pmoran says:

    I was struck by this statement by Montagnier. It probably contains one of the keys to this phenomenon –

    This work was not born today. It follows from patient observations made over the years by doctors, who dared not to follow mainstream antibiotic use. The very rapid progress resulting from careful use of antibiotics in these autistic children exceeded the expectations of both the doctors and the parents, attested by numerous videos and testimonials.

    All “honest” quackery is sustained by such overly simplistic interpretation of clinical observations. Drawn along by the lure of an appealing hypothesis, the doctors and scientist hanger-ons then superimpose their own biases onto the already clouded interpretations of patients (or parents in this case) –clouded by the misinterpretation of spontaneous events, placebo-related responses, and various reporting biases .

    The design of Montagnier’s study illustrates this perfectly. His mind is still in the laboratory, where the initial state of the experimental material can serve as the “control”, normal unthinking lab routinez can cope with most extraneous variables, and outcomes can usually be objectively measured and compared.

    How to get across what we have learnt in the last century or so of clinical investigation?

  26. phayes says:

    “Stanovich’s premise is that while IQ tests do measure intelligence, they don’t measure some important critical thinking skills that he calls rationality.” –mousethatroared

    Interesting. I knew there had to be some explanation other than simple stupidity for the popularity of ‘orthodox inference’ and ‘ontic state’ QM interpretations. ;-)

  27. Hamstur says:

    The problem with these Nobel Prize winners is clearly heavy medal poisoning. I’d suggest a round of bleach enemas (I’m buying!). You can trust me on this because whatever scraps of medical knowledge there are in my head are continually subjected to the proper homepathic serial delusions.

  28. @pmoran,

    It’s rather ironic that you expect people to be familiar with the last century of research when you yourself can’t be bothered to read a few paragraphs without foolishly and wrongly attacking someone. Double standard?

  29. LMA says:

    mousethatroared, I’m only a lay person, so I can’t quote any direct studies, but I can easily point to articles discussing the fact that we know that there are a number of defective genes linked to autism. Here’s one: http://www.jpost.com/Health/Article.aspx?id=272448

  30. Bogeymama says:

    Maybe I don’t pay close enough attention to all the autism quackery, but wouldn’t long-term antibiotic use have the potential to bring back all that “yeast” these kids have too much of already? Wouldn’t it also lead to bowel symptoms that might aggravate their autistic enterocolitis? Geesh.

  31. BillyJoe says:

    windriven,

    “@Billy Joe – He’s wandered awfully close to the crankery line already.”

    I must have missed it. I read all his posts. Perhaps my lack of background knowledge makes it difficult for me to spot. Still, everything seems to reduce to NO. That’s a bit of a red flag I guess.

  32. pmoran says:

    @pmoran,

    It’s rather ironic that you expect people to be familiar with the last century of research when you yourself can’t be bothered to read a few paragraphs without foolishly and wrongly attacking someone. Double standard?

    If you are still sure that you are practicing sound, evidence-based medicine when you (apparently) spontaneously bring up and “offer” PSA screening to your patients, then we should resume that discussion.

    (Should we resume where we left off, the fact that certain medical bodies may have recommended such a policy at some time does not automatically make it desirable. )

    If you are not doing that, then just say so. You have been given plenty of opportunity to clarify, and very politely, too.

  33. mousethatroared says:

    @LMA – “A number of genes are believed to be involved in autism, but so far there have been only mixed results in the effort to identify them.” Is the headline of your link.

    You seem very willing to claim the parents are at fault for having an autistic child without understanding what science actually knows about what causes autism.

    You sound like my classmate in sixth grade that told me that my friend died of leukemia because she smoked. Not only was his comment hurtful, but it was misinformed. Of course, he was a child. i’m guessing, you are an adult and should know better.

  34. Igor says:

    David,

    This “Nobel disease” is part of a larger issue when you get the Nobel or similar prizes as explained by Dick Hamming ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Hamming) in a speech at Bell Labs (You and Your Research / http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/YouAndYourResearch.html ):

    “….But let me say why age seems to have the effect it does. In the first place if you do some good work you will find yourself on all kinds of committees and unable to do any more work. You may find yourself as I saw Brattain when he got a Nobel Prize. The day the prize was announced we all assembled in Arnold Auditorium; all three winners got up and made speeches. The third one, Brattain, practically with tears in his eyes, said, “I know about this Nobel-Prize effect and I am not going to let it affect me; I am going to remain good old Walter Brattain.” Well I said to myself, “That is nice.” But in a few weeks I saw it was affecting him. Now he could only work on great problems.

    When you are famous it is hard to work on small problems. This is what did Shannon in. After information theory, what do you do for an encore? The great scientists often make this error. They fail to continue to plant the little acorns from which the mighty oak trees grow. They try to get the big thing right off. And that isn’t the way things go. So that is another reason why you find that when you get early recognition it seems to sterilize you. In fact I will give you my favorite quotation of many years. The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, in my opinion, has ruined more good scientists than any institution has created, judged by what they did before they came and judged by what they did after. Not that they weren’t good afterwards, but they were superb before they got there and were only good afterwards….”

  35. Scott says:

    @ BillyJoe:

    Not only is everything due to NO. He admits that the research to validate his claims hasn’t been done yet, but they’re ironclad and completely certain anyway. Plus, a general attitude of “The Man is keeping my ideas down by refusing to do the research to prove them.”

    He’s WELL over the line into crankdom IMO.

  36. Chris says:

    Dr. Novella has written about Nobel Disease, and includes Montagnier: Beware the Nobel Laureate Argument from Authority.

    mousethatroared, this morning I read a blurb in the NY Times Science section that there is a paper that also points to fever during pregnancy as a contributing factor in autism and developmental delays. Like cancer, autism is a more than likely not just one thing. It may be many, and the genetics is still in its infancy.

    And I, for one, would like the defend Daedalus. He may have that one issue with NO, but he has posted some very well thought out comments on autism on other blogs.

  37. Woody says:

    @LMA – I have to echo what mousethatroared posted.

    “Because what *do* we know as fact about autism? The parents carry defective genes. The parents are old. The parents are fat. The parents have already had autistic children but roll the dice with another potential child’s life and get pregnant again. In other words, the parents shouldn’t have become parents.”

    So basically what you are saying is that 1) overweight people shouldn’t breed, 2) older couples (who may have delayed childbearing to pursue careers) shouldn’t breed, and 3) individuals that carry these so-called “defective” genes should have some intuition about their genetic makeup and shouldn’t breed. Either you are just joking, or are unbelievably insensitive.

    The few known genetic mutations that have been implicated as causal for autism each individually only account for 1 or 2% of the clinically-diagnosed cases. Therefore, the vast majority of autism cases would not be explained by currently available genetic testing. You might also discourage computer scientists, mathematicians and other such individuals from breeding as such professions appear to be overrepresented among parents of autistic children. You should also be aware that the phenomenon of “stoppage” is actually fairly common in families who have had an autistic child – essentially, the parents do stop having children. There are probably a number of reasons for that, but one factor would be the fact that raising a child with special needs can be very resource-intensive.

  38. kathy says:

    From a review of the book Prize Fight (Morton Meyers):

    “While innovation in science is generally seen as a force for good, it too often comes at a high price – in rampant egotism, bitter denunciation of co-workers and unscrupulous peer-review, not to mention failure to acknowledge influences, plagiarism and even fraud. …

    “The book’s examples come from across the sciences – although the notorious rivalry to invent the transistor goes unmentioned – but the bias is towards biomedical science, Meyers’s speciality.”

    We all agree in theory that Nobel winners are human, but still the media make very merry when a bishop gets caught in a brothel with his pants off. They wouldn’t bother to publish the fact that Joe Soap was also caught there that night. No-one would be interested except Joe’s wife.

    There’s no reason to believe that a Nobel Prize or a bishopric makes the recipient immune to any form of human daftness. Or even downright fraud, nastiness and lying. But we always imagine these awards turn people into instant stained-glass saints and are shocked when they don’t. It’s us who are illogical.

  39. mousethatroared says:

    @Chris – thanks for the info.

  40. lilady says:

    @ LMA:

    “I think the reason there is so much profound quackery regarding autism can be summed up quite simply: the real causes are things people don’t want to hear. Because what *do* we know as fact about autism? The parents carry defective genes. The parents are old. The parents are fat. The parents have already had autistic children but roll the dice with another potential child’s life and get pregnant again. In other words, the parents shouldn’t have become parents. And that’s not something people want to hear or contemplate honestly.”

    and…

    “…..I’m only a lay person, so I can’t quote any direct studies, but I can easily point to articles discussing the fact that we know that there are a number of defective genes linked to autism.”

    Gee, I would not have known that you are a layperson….were it not for your insensitive remarks about parents who have the autism “gene”…and other “risks” such as being older at time of conception or being “fatter”.

    Haven’t you ever heard of de novo gene mutations?

    http://blogs.nature.com/freeassociation/2012/04/autism-exomes-arrive.html

    Here’s a personal experience for you. My son was born thirty-five years ago with a number of physical anomalies and profoundly intellectually and physically disabled with pronounced autistic-like behaviors. After undergoing genetic counseling and genetic testing to determine if there was a chromosomal defect…his karotype was “normal”…we were told that it was probably caused by de novo gene mutations. Shortly before his death in 2004, several of the genetic mutations were finally identified, through research funded by parents like me who had children diagnosed with his rare genetic disorder, and through a grant from the NIH.

    Yes, we decided on “stoppage” because we didn’t know if another child would also have the disorder…and because it wouldn’t be fair for my “normal” child or fair for my son, who required around-the-clock care to survive into adulthood.

    BTW, parents who are older at the time of conception and women who may have pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes and women who have high order births or premature births are all at some increased risk for having a child with some developmental delays/disabilities. Also advancing maternal and paternal age results in increased risk of a having a child with full trisomy or mosaic trisomy developmental disorders….not just autism.

  41. JKR says:

    @ Igor,

    Loved the comment.

    @David Gorski

    I get especially incensed whenever someone fawns over James Watson. I don’t know what it is. We are not the same age, I certainly don’t think of myself as highly as James Watson certainly thought of himself, but watching young graduate students fawn over him just tickles my gag reflex. I am really a terrible person to think this, but I almost wish Francis Crick were alive instead of Watson.

  42. daedalus2u says:

    I have just seen this article and I will comment in detail later. I am at a Gordon Conference on endocrine disruption presenting a poster on endocrine disruption from the perspective of control.

    NO is a critical signaling molecule in physiology. Arginine is not the only or even the most important source of NO

    The idea that arginine can/will prevent heart disease is not supported by the data in the literature. It is crankery.

    I agree with Dr Gorski that the descent into crankery by scientists is unfortunate, and doubly unfortunate when that scientist was once a productive icon. But all icons have feet of clay because they are all merely human beings.

    Nitric oxide physiology is too important to be regulated by dietary levels of anything, even arginine. Essentially every aspect of physiology is too important to be regulated by dietary levels of anything.

    Regarding genes and autism; it is known that there are no genes that individually account for more than a few percent of autism. In other words the hypothesis that a specific gene accounts for 3% of autism, or increases the incidence of non-sporadic autism more then a factor of 1.03 has been falsified. There is no gene that accounts for more than 3%. What that means is that there are at least 30 to 40 genes that by their interaction produce autism (if autism is solely a genetic issue).

  43. daedalus2u says:

    I have read the article and comments more carefully and there is nothing I disagree with Dr Gorski about in it.

    The antibiotic trials are unethical and will not help these children.

    The idea that arginine can cure or prevent heart disease is not correct. There have been very few long term placebo controlled trials, and those have shown that long term arginine does not improve vascular health. That is what is to be expected. NO physiology is too important to leave to differential regulation by dietary levels of nutrients. Long term arginine consumption will lead to feedback regulation of NO production with asymmetric dimethyl arginine, arginase and other things.

    The idea that autism is caused by some sort of gut bacteria or problem is not correct. There are observations of neuroanatomical differences observed in autism which occur during the first trimester in utero. The number of minicolumns in the brain is one of the highest correlated symptoms with autism. The number of minicolumns is fixed at ~40 days gestation. There are teratogens that do cause autism. Those teratogens must be administered during the first trimester to cause autism. They include thalidomide, valproate and some other anti-epileptics.

    The fetal gut is sterile until birth. Bacteria in the gut cannot be the cause of autism. The idea that long term antibiotic treatment would have long term beneficial effects on autism has low prior plausibility.

    As Dr Crislip has informed us, there is no disease of infectious origin where long term antibiotic treatment is a useful treatment modality. Such a treatment modality would have low prior plausibility. If the bacteria is susceptible to the antibiotic, then the antibiotic will kill it and the immune system would clear the rest. If the bacteria is not susceptible, then the antibiotic will kill off susceptible bacteria and the non-susceptible bacteria will expand to fill the empty niche and very likely kill the patient. Long term antibiotic use will either do nothing, or will cause antibiotic resistance to develop.

    Long term antibiotic treatment is a standard of naturopathic treatments. Chronic Lyme and Morgellons being the “disorders” claimed to only be susceptible to long term antibiotic use, but by a plethora of different antibiotics. It is extremely unlikely that a particular disease causing bacteria is susceptible to diverse antibiotics affecting diverse pathways, but only when those antibiotic is administered long term, longer term than is standard of care for any other infectious disorder.

    I have discussed my hypothesis of why chronic long term antibiotic use seems to resolve some of those symptoms.

    http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/2008/02/morgellons-disease-hallucinatory.html

    Bacteria are involved, but it is non-pathogenic and susceptible bacteria in the gut that the antibiotics are killing. There are about a few pounds of bacteria in the gut. Many of them are likely susceptible to antibiotics, even after long term use. When antibiotics kill those bacteria, the bacteria spill their guts and the “guts” of bacteria, even non-pathogenic bacteria are extremely immunogenic. It is the killing of bacteria and the release of endotoxins by them (primarily lipopolysaccharide from the cell membrane) that causes the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herxheimer_reaction

    The Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction resembles a severe infection because the symptoms of a severe infection are mostly due to the response of physiology to try and preserve the life of the organism. A Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction can occur in the complete absence of any living bacteria. Dead bacteria trigger it just as well as living bacteria do.

    When the body detects bacteria or bacteria components in the blood stream, there is an immediate and very strong immune response. This immune response all by itself can kill the organism. What evolution has done is configure the immune system to minimize the sum of deaths from too weak a response and from too strong a response. As bad as bacteria in the blood stream are, bacteria forming a biofilm on the inside of the vasculature is a few orders of magnitude worse. Bacteria have a doubling time of ~20 minutes, so if the response to the bacteria takes an hour, there will be 8 times more bacteria to deal with so as to prevent death. To minimize death from two different things, means that there have to be deaths from both of the things. Death from sepsis is still common, even after the bacteria have been all killed by antibiotics.

    The main mechanism that physiology uses to prevent attachment of bacteria to the blood stream is nitric oxide. Bacteria use NO as a signaling compound to decide when to express virulence factors, a primary one of which is forming a biofilm. NO inhibits biofilm formation. NO also causes vasodilatation. It is the profound vasodilatation due to the gigantic quantities of NO that are generated to suppress biofilm formation that often kills people in sepsis.

    It turns out that an acute immune response does temporarily resolve some of the behavioral symptoms of autism.

    http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/2008/01/resolution-of-asd-symptoms-with-fever.html

    There was an early treatment for neurosyphilis, before the age of antibiotics that “naturally” “stimulated” the immune system, not with artificial and dead chemicals, but with natural and living organism, the malaria organism, usually Plasmodium vivax. This was called Fever Therapy for which the originator was awarded the Nobel Prize. The practice was to administer malaria, let the patient go through 10 or 12 cycles of fever, and then cure the malaria with quinine. It had a death rate of ~10% or so. Neurosyphilis was 100% fatal, so the good chance of recovery that Fever Therapy offered was a clinically justified risk.

    The Jarisch-Herxheimer was first discovered when the syphilis organism died and immunogenic compounds from the dead bacteria triggered the severe reaction.

    My hypothesis is that chronic antibiotic use triggers a Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction when ever the susceptible bacteria in the gut are killed, and the NO released during the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction temporarily resolves the autism symptoms just as has been observed to occur with an acute fever.

    The NO produced during sepsis comes from iNOS, which is only expressed when it is triggered to be expressed and then it goes away in about a day, so any NO increase from this mechanism will be transient.

    This is a lousy way to increase NO levels and is not a treatment modality that has an acceptable side effect profile. It won’t’ work long term.

  44. Ali771 says:

    @kathy,

    Thanks for that. I really enjoy Morton A. Meyers. “Happy Accidents” was excellent. I’ll have to check out this new one.

  45. daedalus2u says:

    The use of long term antibiotics to treat autism may have some similarity to using bleach enemas to treat autism, as has been described by another blogger that some here are quite familiar with, Orac.

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/05/25/selling-bleach-as-a-cure-for-autism/

    Bleach will kill just about any type of bacteria, particularly in the gut where many of them are obligate anaerobes. Those lysed bacteria will trigger a Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction as I discuss above. I suspect that any (dubious) positive effects from a bleach enema may be due to the NO produced from a Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction. That may be a final common pathway in many of the “toxic cleanses” which involve enemas of various agents, coffee, fruit juice, bleach, or even plain water (lysing due to osmotic pressure from hypotonic water). If bacteria are killed, and there is trauma which increases the permeability of the gut, then there very likely will be a Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction.

    Enemas are not removing toxins, they are generating toxins in situ by lysing bacteria that would otherwise be excreted intact.

    If this is the source of the “recoveries” reported, then they are only transient due to the acute immune system stimulation. Chronic stimulation like that will cause compensatory feedback (by unknown mechanisms) which will very likely negate even those transient effects. It is then not surprising that it takes an escalating dose regime to continue producing effects. Any positive effects due to immune system stimulation will cease when the immune system is “overwhelmed”, which can happen when it is subjected to maximally tolerable doses of endotoxin every two hours for months as the “MMS protocol” requires. Most parents have sufficient empathy, even with their autistic children, that they cannot tolerate seeing them writhing in pain and vomiting every two hours. Of course stopping the “treatment” because of side effects shows a lack of faith and provides a rationale as to why the treatment was not successful.

    Of course, if the treatment endpoints are death and 100% recovery, then patients will either achieve 100% recovery or die during treatment.

  46. dave_london says:

    “Nobel laureate” and “crank” have in common that they both are labels assigned to an individual specifically for the act of thinking differently (from those assigning the label). To quote from the top of this page:

    “a discovery considered fundamentally important to the point that it changes the way we think”

    -So this one common feature lessens the surprise that some originators of beliefs and ideas will earn both labels.

    One might even say that a “Nobel laureate” is just a different-thinker after they have succeeded in talking enough (sufficiently powerful) others round to their invented new way of thinking. Thus there are three possible progressions, given that you think in a changed way:

    unnoticed different-thinker -> crank -> Nobel Lauriate

    unnoticed different-thinker -> crank

    or merely

    unnoticed different-thinker.

    On this argument, having already been a crank once, it is hardly surprising that some Nobel laureates exhibit characteristics that will cause them to achieve the same label a second time.

    Only a week before I write these words, we saw another (rather long) instance of what might, quite likely, turn out to be this same progression:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/large-hadron-collider/9376804/Higgs-boson-Prof-Stephen-Hawking-loses-100-bet.html

    http://www.nationalpost.com/From+ridicule+rave+Higgs+boson/6885691/story.html

    A few things I’d be interested to know (but probably never will):

    -roughly what proportion of Nobel Laureates are later held to be sufferers of Nobel disease?
    -is that proportion higher in medicine than in other sciences?
    -what proportion of Nobel Laureates either actually were (when they first communicated it) or would have been (had they communicated it, assuming they instead kept it quiet for a while) described by respected figures as a “crank” (or in similar terms) at the time they initially formulated the very way of thinking that subsequently has in fact earn them the Nobel prize.
    -how many people who never shook off the “crank” label were in fact essentially correct in their “cranky” idea, but we just don’t know it yet?

    Some thoughts (from a scientist without medical qualifications) about the specifics mentioned in comments above:

    I often find the reasons given by respected medical scientists why an idea “obviously cannot be true” completely unconvincing from a lay perspective. E.g. above:

    “there is no disease of infectious origin where long term antibiotic treatment is a useful treatment modality. Such a treatment modality would have low prior plausibility. If the bacteria is susceptible to the antibiotic, then the antibiotic will kill it and the immune system would clear the rest.”

    How do we know that this bacterial killing process, cannot for any infection, take a long time to complete? In other words, how do we know that there is not one single infectious pathogenic organism in existence for which antibiotics could suppress its reproductive rate in human patients only just sufficiently to tip the balance and eradicate it gradually? I get the impression from the above that – due to the “collateral health damage” (which I do not dispute for a second) of antibiotics, it is in any case considered unethical to even try the experiment. So in that case, one would not know if it would have worked, and surely then we simply do not now know (either whether there is, or there is not some “disease of infectious origin where ….”). Is not knowing forbidden in medicine?

    When it comes to medicine, my scepticism about medical experts’ utterances is all the greater for two other reasons:

    I’ve heard it all before: where it turned out later to be wrong. I am old enough to have known people with illnesses who were told XYZ cannot be a disease mechanism because dumdedumdeda, only to discover decades later that XYZ in fact was a disease mechanism. (The problem is that we all – including lay persons – know some historical examples: One of my friends at college suffered for years with stomach ulcers and was told “we know the stomach is too acid for bacteria to be the cause of a stomach ulcer, so we can dismiss that idea, etc”.)

    The whole tenor of this article, and many of the comments from medical experts, reads to me as though we all know that it is easy for us in the mainstream to decide for sure the difference between fakery and quackery on the one hand and, on the other, new ideas whose time has not yet come. But can you really look at the history of medicine up to 2012 and say that?

    I know that biology, the human body, medicine is incredibly complex. We all know that. Is medical science not in fact in its early infancy for that reason alone?

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